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Changes to Public Charge

Last Revised: 08/21/2019



“Public charge” is a term used by USCIS officials to describe an applicant who they believe will become dependent on the government for a living.

When someone applies to enter the United States or when someone who already lives in the United States applies to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) they undergo a public charge assessment by a USCIS official.

If the USCIS official determines the applicant is likely to become a “public charge”, their application is denied.


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has filed a rule change to public charge that makes it more difficult for immigrants to obtain lawful permanent residency (green card) or enter the US. 

The DHS can only consider the use of cash benefit programs and long term institutionalized care paid for by the federal government during a public charge determination. 

On and after October 15th:
The rule new rules were published to the federal register and will become effective on October 15th, 2019. Once the changes become effective, the DHS could consider the use of Medicaid, federally funded public housing assistance programs, and SNAP (CalFresh) as a negative factor (with some exceptions), making the applicant more likely to be deemed a public charge and denied a green card. 

Lawsuits that may delay or stop the rule changes

As of August 21, 2019, five lawsuits have been filed that may delay the implementation of the rule change or stop the rule change altogether.